Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pow Wow

Have you ever seen a poster in a store window advertising a Pow Wow and wondered what it was or who it was for? Have you ever driven by a sign on a street corner on a weekend pointing down the road to a Pow Wow and been tempted to drop by? Last Saturday in Batavia, Illinois, was Pow Wow day. What is a Pow Wow? A Pow Wow is Native American dance gathering. Native Americans come together for the day to socialize and celebrate their culture, both their historical culture and their current culture. Some attend in regalia specific to a certain type of dance, which may include traditional elements as well as contemporary elements. There will be portions of the program where only those in dance regalia are invited to participate, but there will be many dances called 'inter tribal' where everyone is invited to participate, including any member of the audience, native or non-native. A Master of Ceremonies will be there to announce each dance and indicate who is invited to participate, so you don't have to know the rules before you go! Dancing must have music of course, and at a Pow Wow the music is the beat of the drum. Traditionally, drumming is done by men, seated in a circle around a large hide drum that sits in a frame on the floor. The drumming is loud and if you are close enough, you can feel it as well as hear it. The drumming is my favorite part. And a Pow Wow is for everyone. For Native Americans, it is an opportunity to celebrate their heritage and connect with other natives. For non-natives, it is an opportunity to learn about the culture of the people that inhabited North America for at least the last 10,000 years. If there is a program, it will contain information to help you know what is going on. If not, the M.C. will announce tidbits now and then. And dance participants in regalia are always willing to answer your questions. But you can read online before you go, doing your searches on such terms as 'Pow wow etiquette'. There are sites that list what is considered appropriate behavior at a Pow Wow. If I had to pick a rule that people don't pay enough attention to it would be to always stand during an honor song. The M.C. will usually announce this during the song at the beginning of the event that honors veterans, but some times he will forget at other honor songs. If it is a song to honor someones birthday or an elder or a local family or the pow wow committee, those honored will dance first, and then others are welcome to join. And the audience should all be standing. If the M.C. forgets to announce this, then please, just go ahead and stand up. Others will notice and stand as well. I would also ask you to be free with your cash. The pow wow is put on by a committee of volunteers and as with any volunteer endeavor, money is always an issue and often a reason why a pow wow dies out: The donations are not enough to cover the expense. So please, give a little extra in any way you can. The drumming is why I go. The sound of it and the feel of it recharges me and seems to reset my energy and my mood. Look online for a pow wow schedule for your area and have the courage to try something you have never done before and be open to learn and experience and enjoy!

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